A high-level summit between China and Japan is looking increasingly unlikely, with the top government spokesman in Tokyo firmly rebuffing the Chinese president's contention that Japan's leader is to blame for the chilled state of the relations between the two countries.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Shinzo Abe, told reporters Monday the Japanese government disagrees with China's assertion that the visits by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a Tokyo war shrine are the biggest barrier to improving ties.
Abe says China is to blame for the failure to hold a summit meeting at which the two leaders could discuss their country's differences.
He says Japan cannot accept Chinese President Hu Jintao's assertion that Mr. Koizumi is totally to blame for the frayed Sino-Japanese relationship.
Mr. Hu met former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in Beijing on Friday. He said that Mr. Koizumi must end his visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo before the relationship can improve.
Mr. Koizumi told parliament Monday it is wrong of China to refuse to hold a summit just because of one issue.
The Yasukuni Shrine honors all of Japan's war dead, including those convicted of war crimes in Asia during the early 20th century. China was the scene of many of those crimes, and the Chinese see the visits as an indication that Japan has not sincerely repented for its actions.
In an additional verbal jab at Beijing, Abe - who is considered the front-runner to succeed Mr. Koizumi - hinted that he would also visit Yasukuni if he became prime minister. He said he would like to continue praying for the souls of those who died for their country.
Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have plunged to their worst point in decades since Mr. Koizumi became prime minister five years ago, and began making public visits to the shrine.